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Crafting Creativity: Tales from the London Design Scene and D&AD Adventures

Roshnee Desai, Founder and Creative Director at LOCAL, reflects on her decade long relationship with London's design scene and her experience judging the Luxury Category at D&AD 2024 where she was 1 out of 10 Indians from the jury of 350.

At the Jury insights session, talking about how luxury communication means creating irrational desire and attention to craft.

Image: Copyright ©D&AD 2024

This year marks 10 years since I graduated with my Masters from London College of Communication. Since then, I have been coming to London every year. It has been the place that I call my "Karma Bhoomi".

I believe each city, with its people, has a unique rhythm. It expresses values and a distinct perspective on life. When these align with your own, you feel a sense of comfort and belonging. Conversely, a mismatch can leave you feeling constantly at odds with your daily life. For me, the way London looks at design, its craftsmanship, and even more so, how it values its designers, is what truly resonates with me.

The way the 'design scene' is structured, funded, nurtured, and pushed is in my opinion, one of its greatest strengths as a city. This priority not only reflects on the design community but also plays out in the larger decisions and choices made by the city. For example, designers have a say in design decisions at a governing level — from the stamps, maps, signages, and patterns on train upholstery that are chosen, to the shape of city skyline (as seen best from Primrose Hill), to how areas are to be developed or the museums to be built; these are all design decisions made by actual designers.

In fact, a lot of the designers I look up to have titles like CBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) which is just cute in today's age of blue ticks, but shows that the government does value design and its contribution to civilised living.

To do this job of generating and nurturing design excellence, the community has several systems and bodies that hold up these high standards. These are institutions, festivals, conferences and awards that keep each industry in check and push it further.

The D&AD is once such organisation that brings together world's top creative minds to judge the very best creative work in the world. (Of course the person is not allowed to judge or influence their own work and there are various checks to make sure its fair)

I have seen firsthand now, how incredibly hard it is to win one of these lovely pencils. A few factors make this extremely tough are:

  1. There are no quotas for the different award levels at D&AD (Wooden, Graphite, Yellow and Black). If, in their judgment, a particular year's entries fail to push creative boundaries, they may withhold awards altogether.

  2. You may have a great idea that was very effective in the market, but if the design craft was not upto the mark, or wasn't pushing the category into a new direction (in other words, copying or building on older work done), it will also not meet the mark. We were told, remember these are design awards, not business awards.

  3. Similarly we were asked to leave our biases and politics back at home and to judge the entries purely on merit and excellent design work. Interestingly, this is surprisingly hard to do, and made me realise how much of creative work we accept or reject because of what we know and our personal biases.

  4. They had also made sure that each panel was as diverse as possible. In our Luxury category panel itself, we had judges from key luxe markets and creators such as Korea, France, US, India, Netherlands, Denmark and WOC from London. Even the gender mix was great , and this really helped bring layers to the conversation, especially around beauty standards and struggles across geographies in the luxury market.

As a Creative Director, one has very strong opinions. But imagine being in a room full of equally strongly opinionated people, often the best in the world, all with massive experience and nuance under their belt. It was certainly an experience where you realise that what Priya Matadeen of Ganni said is true: "2 opposite things can be true".

Scenes from the event. Don't you want that pencil pin?

I do sometimes feel that what works in Europe wouldn't work in Asia. Good design is definitely universal but there are some factors like the maturity of markets, a people's exposure and perceptions of communication, and its nuances, and the hard truth about budgets that each market is willing to spend, greatly influence the quality of output from each country. Additionally, in the luxury segment, the people who buy luxury in India versus China, Europe, and US are looking for very different things and are very different people. Even in India the variables are massive between metros and smaller towns; north and south.

But, if an award is judging you absolutely on basis of your craft and that alone, we all have a chance. Focusing on our work, crafting it to its best possible iteration with every minute detail cared and thought for, while still answering the client's brief is the fine dance all us designers must do. And that, is universal. That is something that transcends boundaries and language. And that is what we are looking for.

From left to right : Chris Graves (CCO Team One), Roshnee Desai (Founder, LOCAL), Boyoung Lee (CBO Shinsegae), Michael Grieve (CBO Jumeirah, ex Gucci), Ravi Amaratunga Hitchcock(Founder Soursop), Florence Bellisson (CCO BETC Luxury), Fisayo Longe (CEO Kai Collective), Peter Lund (CCO AKQA), Priya Matadeen (CBO Ganni)

The experiences and conversations at D&AD left me humbled and enriched in equal measure. It also brought to me a fantastic group of new designer friends who are the same kind of mad as I am. Which I hope will lead to richer work in the future.

London (via D&AD this time) has once again given me a brain-full of inspiration and encouragement to push LOCAL and myself further in my practice as a designer.

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